Injuries can wreck a season at any time and for the Barnegat boys basketball team, that was the threat the Bengals faced when their top two scorers went down at the same time just when the schedule was getting difficult.

While Barnegat had to swallow one-sided losses to Central Regional and Rumson-Fair Haven, the Bengals faced those teams with senior Jamari Smith and junior Mason Krey watching from the sideline.

Last week, Barnegat had its full squad and showed that, when healthy, the Bengals can hang with Ocean County's best.

After stunning Southern on Jan. 12, Barnegat continued its turnaround last week with wins over Toms River South and Jackson Memorial, earning the Bengals the Week 5 Jersey Mike's Team of the Week Award.

A two-point loss to Seneca on Jan. 2 dropped Barnegat to 3-5, at which point, the fortunes of the Bengals turned. Barnegat won its next two to get back to .500 before suffering a 67-47 setback against Point Pleasant Boro to fall back to 5-6.

The Bengals bounced back in a big way, scoring a 44-39 upset at Southern to set off a four-game winning streak that carried into Week 5.

Last week, Barnegat made another statement by knocking off then-ranked No. 15 Toms River South, 48-47, on a game-winning three-pointer by junior Corey Zaccagna in the final seconds. Zaccagna did not check into the game until 22 seconds to go, but he checked in ready to hit the biggest shot of Barnegat's season to date.

Smith led Barnegat with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Krey stepped up with 12 points, five assists and three steals.

The following night, Barnegat dragged through the first three quarters at Jackson Memorial, which led the Bengals, 32-22, heading into the fourth quarter. In the final eight minutes, the Bengals exploded for 29 points to stun the Jaguars, 51-46.

Smith and Krey again led the way, with Smith scoring 19 points and Krey chipping in 11 points and four assists.

Barnegat's four-game winning streak ended Tuesday at home to Toms River North, but the Bengals took the No. 10 Mariners down to the wire in a 53-47 decision that went the way of the visitor. Now 9-7 overall, Barnegat is well set-up to return to the Shore Conference Tournament for the first time since 2020.

2023-24 Jersey Mike's Team of the Week Winners

Week 1: Toms River South

Week 2: Toms River North

Week 3: Holmdel

Week 4: Freehold Boro

Week 5: Barnegat


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